A lot of you might think of cute anime girls when you think of games from developer and publisher Idea Factory. To be honest, that’s what I had them pegged for. I missed out on Death end re;Quest but am pretty happy I got to check out its sequel.
There aren’t enough horror RPGs. Shadow Hearts and Parasite Eve fit that bill really well, with third-person adventure games getting all the love. I don’t think Death end re;Quest 2 is a perfect game, but it’s easily good enough to get me to go back and check out the original.
Players take control of Mai, a young girl who ends up in a boarding school for teenage girls after the death of her father. After her mother and father split up, Mai and her sister were also split between the two parents. Mai has sort of orchestrated the boarding school she ends up in thinking that her sister is there. When it turns out she isn’t, Mai discovers that the boarding school is more than it seems with dark secrets hidden in its walls.
A visual novel approach to storytelling
During the night, kids from the boarding school are getting “rehomed,” so Mai decides to investigate the streets, which are off-limits for everyone at night. Night-time exploration is most of the gameplay here.
Almost all of the story beats take place in the dormitory through visual novel-like cutscenes. I don’t hate this style of storytelling, but I often find that it isn’t very engaging. The narrative is interesting, so I would have liked more interesting ways of seeing it delivered.
Luckily, I really like the art style in Death end re;Quest 2. Characters are drawn in interesting ways, and there’s quite a bit of variety. Each of these characters has a unique personality and friend group. Interacting with them is often amusing in one way or another.
As a loner, it is also great to see Mai’s relationships with the other girls grow. Again, I find it’s hard to illustrate character depth in visual novels, so having fascinating characters and personalities clash and grow together is a nice touch that adds depth to the cast.
The combat is fun
When Mai is out exploring, she’ll come across a pretty wide variety of monsters and other demonic-looking creatures to battle. Battles engage in a circular sphere with invisible walls. Players can maneuver around the sphere during their turn and bash at enemies.
During most battles, players initiate a knockback sequence that has enemies pinballing around the sphere doing a large amount of damage. Most of the early encounters are incredibly easy, but a sharp difficulty spike a few chapters in makes things more interesting. I would like to see more variation in battles play out, but I think the frenetic action with the knockback attacks makes combat in Death end re;Quest 2 pretty fun.
Layers of Fear with anime girls
I mentioned earlier that Death end re;Quest 2 is a horror-style JRPG. Instead of in-your-face scares, it opts for a more tense and suspenseful style of horror. Think Layers of Fear 2 but with anime girls. The horror elements are implemented intelligently and aren’t too heavyhanded.
These “horror” elements carry over into the modeling of the towns and areas you explore as well as enemy design. The gothic architecture of the main hub suits Death end re;Quest 2 well. I just wish it didn’t look like a PS2 title running at a higher resolution. The menus, the hand-drawn storytelling segments, and the dormitory menu are all gorgeous, so it was especially jarring moving into the 3D semi-open world areas. Textures are muddied and details are low, but the aesthetic is excellent.
Death end re;Quest 2 nails a lot of things: narrative, aesthetics, soundtrack, and character growth are all fantastic. It falters in narrative delivery, visual design, and difficulty spikes. It’s a commendable gothic JRPG from Idea Factory that does interesting things even if not all of them work. I’m looking forward to checking out the original. From what I hear, it’s just as gruesome, if not more so, than the sequel.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.